By: Justin Jacobs
Pretoria - The hatchback segment is one that has been hotly contested for as long as we can remember. Two of the most popular options, the locally built Volkswagen Polo and the Renault Clio, have been sitting at the top of the list since they were introduced. The Clio recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and, in that time, it has, like the Polo, carved out a decent share of the market. Both cars have been updated and seem to offer much in terms of value. I spent time with both to see how they stack up against each other.
I love how different both cars approach design in their own unique way. In terms of visual appeal, the Clio is definitely the most attractive of the two. The Polo seems to be more subtle in its design approach, more clinical, less flamboyant and that’s perfectly okay. What I do like is the LED light elements on both cars. The Clio features these large C-shaped lights whereas the Polo has adopted an LED light-bar that runs across the grille. Both look extremely eye-catching when the sun goes down.
The rear of both cars also adopts LED technology within the light clusters. The Polo features the new VW badge and the new placement of the POLO designation just under it. The Clio features a slightly curved roof-line which gives it a sleek silhouette. The Polo, however, stays true to form. Again, both look good in their own right but the Clio embodies that iconic French flair in its design, making it a bit more visually entertaining than the Polo.
This is where drivers will be spending most of their time so the interior is very important. Both cars' interiors have come a long way since I started interacting with the Clio and Polo a few years ago. Cheap, bland and basic are not words associated with either car when it comes to the interior composition.
The Polo offers an ergonomically designed facia complete with a now-standard digital instrument cluster. I also rather enjoyed the 8.0-inch infotainment system which offers wireless app connect like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The latest Clio also features an updated interior complete with a new 9.3” Easy Link multimedia touch screen that draws your eye. It also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but it’s, unfortunately, not wireless.
The interior trim is decent, as are the comfort levels of the seats. The Clio and Polo offer decent interior space with ample storage space. The Polo offers a luggage capacity of around 351 litres. The Clio, however, offers around 40-litres more than that though at 391. I also prefer the Clio’s climate controls which are dials with a digital element compared to the Polo’s more analogue offering. It is also worth mentioning that Volkswagen offers only USB-C ports, so make sure that you have an adapter.
Under the bonnet:
The Volkswagen and the Renault make use of a 3-cylinder 1.0-litre turbocharged motor. I found both motors to be equally eager and both cars made use of a 5-speed manual gearbox. The Polo seen here develops around 85kW and 200Nm of torque while the Clio offers up 74kW and 160Nm of torque. This deficiency can be felt when pulling away as the Clio tends to suffer more from turbo-lag than the Polo. Once both are up to speed they tend to cruise rather decently. In-gear acceleration is good and the Clio even offers various driving modes.
One downside to the Renault Clio is that it’s only available in five-speed manual form, whereas Polo buyers can choose between a manual and (as per our test car) a DSG dual-clutch auto.
When it comes to fuel consumption, which is an important consideration these days, you will be happy to know that the Polo has a claimed consumption of around 5.4l/100km. The Clio claims 5.7l/100km. We averaged around 6.5l/100km with both vehicles during our time. I guess that fuel consumption comes down to many external factors such as your specific driving style, traffic and how far you’re going.
Although the cars are equally impressive, there is just something about the Volkswagen Polo that appeals to us just a bit more. We guess it’s the bit more power and the “it feels like home” when one climbs into the driver's seat. The Clio is great and offers its own charm. Truth be told, we would recommend looking at both.
It is worth mentioning that the Clio (at the time of writing this) had a price tag of R349 900 in top spec form which means you’re getting a lot of car for the money. The mid-spec 85kW DSG Polo Life costs R374 500, although you can have the 70kW manual model for R353 600.
The Polo does have a better service plan, though, at three-years or 45 000km versus the Clio’s two-year/30 000 plan, although the French contender does fight back with a longer warranty, at 5-years/150 000km versus three-years/120 000km.